Kura Sushi installs automated feeders at contract fish farms
Japanese sushi chain Kura Sushi will deploy Umitron Cell automated fish feeders at all of its aquaculture consignment sites.
The Osaka-based rotary sushi company is vertically integrating into fish farming through a subsidiary, Kura Osakana Farm Co. However, the new subsidiary, established on November 1, 2021, does not directly farm fish. Instead, it outsources production to existing producers.
In Japan, fishing cooperatives have the first access to aquaculture sites. The revision of the fisheries law, which came into force on December 1, 2020, allows prefectural governors to grant sites to private companies if they are not fully used by cooperatives. In practice, most businesses will try to partner with co-ops to avoid competing for locations.
In addition to outsourcing, the new venture aims to introduce artificial intelligence to production sites. The introduced Umitron Cell smart chargers are supplied by Tokyo-based Umitron Corporation and use AI and Internet of Things (IoT) technology developed by the company. Kura Osakana Farm Co. will lease the equipment to growers.
In addition to being more efficient, feeders save labor. Japanese fisheries are facing a labor shortage as the workforce ages, although this is more extreme in capture fisheries than in aquaculture. The average age of fishermen is 56.9 years old, according to the Japan Fishermen’s Association. Despite an increase in the number of people aged 39 or younger, who primarily engage in aquaculture, the workforce is shrinking.
Another impetus for the use of AI is the promotion of sustainability. By using automated feeders, they can reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions, reducing the number of trips between port and aquaculture sites to feed or check fish. AI also avoids food waste by assessing fish appetite through their eating behaviors and accurately calculating their size and food needs.
Worker safety and convenience are also promoted, as power supply and monitoring can be done remotely by smartphone input, and there is no need to go out to sea in heavy weather. The loader hopper still needs to be periodically refilled.
The farm grows organic hamachi (Seriola quinqueradiata), which will be sold in the chain’s restaurants.
The Organic Certification Organization (OCO), Inc. has established a new standard called “Organic Aquaculture and Processing” based on management standards in Japan and other countries. In March 2021, the certification center established at the Food, Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Information Technology Center (FAMIC) officially certified that OCO’s new standard is compliant. to international standards.
Kura Osakana Farm’s “Organic Hamachi” was the first fish to pass this examination and was certified as the first organic fish in Japan to meet international standards. The parent company has been working on the certification project since 2018. The standard included production processes and traceability, animal feed production, cultivation on fishing grounds and product processing.
Photo courtesy of Kura Osakana Farm